The Florida State Attorney's Office is being urged not to prosecute a woman who was arrested after turning in her husband's guns to police while he was in jail on domestic violence charges.
After a divorce court meeting on June 14, Joseph and Courtney Irby got into an argument, according to an arrest report obtained by the Lakeland Ledger. When Courtney Irby, 32, tried to leave, her husband followed her, rammed into her vehicle and forced her off the road, police said.
Joseph Irby, 35, was arrested on a domestic aggravated battery charge, according to jail records. Courtney Irby told a responding officer that "she feared for her life," her husband’s arrest report said.
While Joseph Irby spent the night in jail, Courtney Irby went to his apartment and took his assault rifle and handgun.
The next day, Courtney Irby attempted to turn the weapons in to Lakeland Police, citing an injunction that required her husband to surrender the weapons, according to her arrest affidavit.
Federal law prohibits people under a domestic violence restraining order from possessing guns, but it's up to local law enforcement to enforce it, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The officer on duty asked whether she had permission to enter his apartment and she said no, the Ledger reported.
“So you are telling me you committed an armed burglary?” the officer said, according to the arrest affidavit obtained by the newspaper.
“Yes, I am,” Irby replied, “but he wasn’t going to turn them (the guns) in so I am doing so.”
She was arrested on two counts of grand theft and one count of armed burglary and jailed for six days, according to court records.
“We have to safeguard every citizen's rights," Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia told WFLA following an outcry on social media over the arrest. "When a case is brought to us, we have to look at all sides of the cases and come to the fairest conclusion we can for everyone involved."
A GoFundMe campaign created to raise money for Courtney Irby’s legal and living expenses had raised nearly $7,000 as of Monday evening. State Representative Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, urged Polk County State Attorney Brian Haas not to prosecute Irby, saying that doing so “sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it.”
In a letter to Haas, Eskamani noted that while people convicted of domestic abuse cannot possess guns under federal law, local law enforcement does not have the tools they need to enforce those rules.
“These loopholes are major contributors to the deadly relationship between domestic violence and firearms,” she wrote. “As original research by Everytown shows: the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be murdered.”
Jacob Orr, an assistant state attorney, told The Orlando Sentinel that prosecutors haven’t “decided whether we will or won’t” file charges against Courtney Irby. She is set to appear in court on July 16.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: A Florida woman turned in her husband's guns after his domestic violence arrest. Police arrested her for theft